Conductor Zubin Mehta (1936) was born in Mumbai, India. His father, Mehli Mehta, was the founder of both the Bombay Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles-based American Youth Symphony.
At the age of eighteen, Zubin Mehta dropped out of his studies of medicine to enroll in the Vienna Music Academy. Seven years later, he was conductor of both the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras, quickly becoming an in-demand symphonic music and opera conductor worldwide.
The Montreal Symphony Orchestra was the first to appoint him as Artistic Director in 1961, followed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic a year later. He was appointed as Music Director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1977.
Mehta has conducted thousands of concerts on five continents with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra beginning in 1969, when the young conductor replaced the legendary conductor Eugene Ormandy. In 1981, the orchestra appointed him as Music Director for Life. Their 50-year collaboration will end in October 2019.
Mehta has been Artistic Director of the Bavarian State Opera and the New York Philharmonic, as well as Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino festival in Florence.
Mehta has said of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra: “The Israel Philharmonic is like no other orchestra today in the sense that they live through crises, political crises, every few years. And it makes no difference to their work schedule. Public comes, as usual. The last crisis we had was when Hamas would throw regular bombs on Tel Aviv… Not one concert was canceled. Public came every evening. And when sirens went off, we stopped, then we went on again.”
Along with his brother Zarin, he runs the Mehli Mehta Foundation in Mumbai, which educates more than 200 children in Western classical music. Meanwhile, the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music operates in Tel Aviv, and Mehta is also involved along with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in a project which promotes the musical education of Israeli Arab children in Shfaram and Nazareth.
“Zubin is one of the greatest musicians of our time. He has conducted the world’s most esteemed orchestras and introduced generations to classical music with more than 50 years of recordings and breathtaking performances. Through his humanitarian work, he has given us a model of music’s ability to bridge cultures and bring people together in healing and in harmony,” said conductor Gustavo Dudamel when the Los Angeles Philharmonic named Mehta as Conductor Emeritus in January 2019.
The conductor has received the Indian Tagore Award for his contributions toward cultural harmony; he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Distinction by Israeli President Shimon Peres; he received the World Culture Prize in Memory of His Imperial Highness Prince Takamatsu, Japan. Since 2011, he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He is an honorary citizen of Tel Aviv and Florence, and an honorary member of the Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera and the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Wien. He is an honorary conductor of the Vienna, Munich and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras, the Kapelle der Staatsoper Berlin, Bavarian State Orchestra, and the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where the Musicology Department is named after himself and his father, as well as the Weizmann Institute of Science.
Before performing with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the Dzintari Concert Hall in 2015, Mehta told Inese Lūsiņa in a phone call: “First we gain knowledge of musical styles and composers, orchestral technique. Then, it is incredibly important to understand what the composer has written between the lines. To uncover the composer’s message – that is the conductor’s task.” And during the phone interview, he could clearly recall the orchestra’s first performance in Riga, at the Latvian National Opera in 1990. Meanwhile, other Latvian artists to collaborate with Mehta include Elīna Garanča, Marina Rebeka, Egils Siliņš, the State Choir Latvija and director Alvis Hermanis.
In 2016, Mehta’s autobiography, The Score Of My Life: A Memoir, was released.
His achievements in both symphonic music concerts and opera performances have been recorded on hundreds of CDs and DVDs recorded by many of the world’s most significant recording companies: Sony, Teldec, Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, Philips, BMG, Orfeo, TDK, Universal Music, Arthaus and others.